Privacy is important to almost everyone. We have come to expect that our emails, text messages, and other forms of communication will be kept out of the hands and outside the eyes of people who are not the intended recipients of those messages. This is true even when it comes to our spouses. It is a given that we are going to share some communication with our spouses but to think that all our thoughts would be made known to our spouses is probably not ideal. If anything, that could lead to marital problems in the home that you may not have anticipated.
Ideally, both spouses in a marriage would just accept and agree that there is no right to have unfettered access to each other’s communications. I think this is probably true of most people. However, it could be that you and your spouse have a different understanding of the line that many other people will not cross. What you may not have readily appreciated is that these actions by your spouse against you aren’t only harmful to the marriage relationship. They can be harmful, as well, to your chances of being able to have a fair divorce. The information that your spouse gains from accessing email and other communications could potentially be used against you in a divorce.
All bets are off when you move towards a divorce as far as whether your spouse will be willing to spy on your communications. The fact that a divorce is on the horizon means that your spouse may be willing to bend the truth and engage in some behavior that he otherwise would have been unwilling to do a few months ago. The demand for evidence that could be used to make you look bad or harm your case is significant in a divorce where you both are similarly situated. At the very least, any negative evidence that is discovered about you could end up being used to harm you during the negotiation of your case.
Sometimes the information that is discovered through spying could be so negative for you that you don’t know where to turn. If it is embarrassing for you then you naturally would not want to share the information with your attorney. Everyone likes to share the good news. Nobody gets excited to share the news that paints them in an unfavorable light. With that said, I have seen a handful of clients keep secrets from their attorney for various reasons but the foremost among those reasons must be that the incident or issue is embarrassing. The spouse would prefer to suffer the consequences of being blackmailed, essentially.
Spying can take on many forms in a divorce, but one thing is for certain: spying is easier today than it has been at any other time. For one, so much of our time is spent conversing with people online rather than in person these days. Written words on a phone or computer are easier to collect than a voice on a phone. An app can accurately transmit your texts to your spouse and record your emails with a click of a mouse. Yes, your spouse would need to be able to keep up with the times and stay with the program technologically but otherwise, your spouse does not need to be a private investigator to get a hold of your text messages and emails.
What are the reasons why your spouse could be spying on you?
This is the million-dollar question that you will need to answer. There is a never-ending list of reasons why your spouse may choose to spy on you. There are probably no good reasons for your spouse to try to spy on you short of something that would have to do with the safety or well-being of your children. Instead, if your spouse is spying on you then it probably has more to do with trying to pique their curiosity or just plain confirm a thought regarding your habits or whereabouts. If your spouse wants to know if you have been working late the past week then he or she could get into your emails and look to see if you received any messages or emails from your boss about that work assignment.
Some reasons have more to do with your spouse being someone who is trying to figure out the best way to control. This may or may not be a precursor to their filing for divorce. In any way, control is something that can be used to your spouse’s advantage both in your marriage and in your divorce. Since we are trying to write this blog post from the perspective of a person who is going through a divorce, let’s assume that your spouse is not trying to remain married to you. Rather, he has started to spy so that when he files for divorce, he can be in the most advantageous position possible with your children and with your community property.
One of the common reasons why attorneys hear that their client or the opposing client has engaged in spying is out of concern that there is cheating going on in the marriage. How much truth there is to that assumption would vary depending on the case. Many times, I would suspect that the spying is done to see if anything happens to come up. Cheating is just used as a pretext to go in and have a look at their spouse’s private communications. However, you may be in a situation where cheating has occurred or is legitimately suspected to have occurred. Even then it is somewhat morally questionable for a spouse to access their spouse’s information or messages to confirm that the cheating has occurred.
It doesn’t even have to be just married people who spy on one another. If you and your co-parent have not agreed on the visitation schedule, child support, or any other subject related to your children and you believe that he or she is planning on filing a child custody case soon then some spying may be able to unearth some information about your co-parent that could be to your advantage in that area. Evidence of poor decision making questionable behavior or a combination of the two may cause you to become less of a hard negotiator and more of a person who is willing to take a deal rather than push the envelope when it comes to negotiating for something that you want.
What are some of the ways that you can tell you are being spied on?
If you think that your spouse is spying on you then you may need to start being more vigilant about their behavior and your response to it. It is not easy to go through a situation where you are being spied on in a lead up to a probable divorce. You should not ignore the feeling when something just doesn’t feel right. That is when you need to start asking questions and then you can determine whether or not additional action needs to be taken to further investigate a situation involving spying. After all, if your spouse was spying on you, it is easier to nip the situation in the bud and protect yourself sooner rather than later. The later you wait the more likely that harm could occur. The more information that your spouse gets your hands on the more likely it is that he or she will find information that sticks against you or hurts your case.
One of the strongest signs of spying is when your spouse begins to reference conversations that you have never had with him or her. Sharing information that he would have had no other way of knowing but for having spied on you is a way that your spouse may be spying on you and then tipping their hand that spying has occurred. This is not necessarily something that you need to bring up immediately. You can try to figure out exactly how he or she is learning the information or accessing your email or text messages. Once you have closed off those avenues to him or her you can then address the problems directly.
Spyware isn’t just something for computers anymore. Spyware can be downloaded onto a cell phone for use in keeping track of your emails and text messages sent. What’s troublesome is that it can be difficult to keep track of the spyware once it gets into your phone. If you don’t have a password or passcode protection on your phone, then you should go ahead and start that now. This way the chances of your spouse being able to access your phone without your knowledge is minimal. Other signs that spyware may be on your computer are if your phone is running slowly or the battery is draining faster than ordinary.
This is a simple one to look for but one that some people will miss on occasion. If your emails are showing up as read before you have had a chance to read them then that is a tell-tale sign of spying happening in and around your computer or phone. If you have your email password saved on a computer at home, then it is easy for your spouse to look around and then leave when it suits him or her. Do not underestimate how easy and tempting this is for a person who is already trying to look to gain an advantage over you for the upcoming divorce.
Sometimes the spying that is happening could be more old school than you otherwise would have thought. For instance, if you have noticed a new item in your home such as a stuffed animal or another seemingly innocuous object then you should verify that what was brought into your home by your spouse is not a camera or other spying device. This is the sort of thing that you hear about or see on movies or television shows when it comes to spying. This obviously is not the most sophisticated way to spy on someone, but it can be and oftentimes is an effective way to learn information about you that you want to keep private. Do not take for granted that everything that comes into your house is legitimate. If a divorce has already been filed or you anticipate a divorce being filed then you should look at things like this with a skeptical eye.
Another old-school method of spying that could be used by your spouse in a divorce would be a camera or tracking system attached to your vehicle. Obviously, in today’s world, it does not take much to track a vehicle. GPS technology and even your cell phone can be used to help your spouse keep tabs on you throughout the day. However, there may be some particular reason why your spouse would choose to track your vehicle using one of these methods. If your spouse is showing up at places where he or she never used to and does so without warning, then you should look at that skeptically. It may pay to look underneath your vehicle or inside the glove box. He or she may have stored a tracking device there when you were not looking.
One tool that you may choose to take advantage of is the ability to change the password on any account that your spouse may have access to. If you have a Google or Apple-based cell phone, then the odds are good that you have a single password that applies to multiple resources on your phone or tablet. I know that Apple products use the Apple ID to be able to log into your account from multiple different locations and different platforms. This can make it very easy for you to log into your account and access materials no matter where you are but can also make it easy for you to become susceptible to spying by your spouse. Updating your password or requiring a two-step verification to access your account may be what you need to take advantage of to protect your information.
Otherwise, if you and your spouse are going through a difficult time in your marriage then it could make sense for you to hide important documents from him or her for at least the time being. Any information about financial accounts that he or she is not listed on, computer passwords, or other sensitive information should be removed from the house and stored in a safer place. This could mean that you take it to a friend’s or parents’ home or create multiple online locations for the information to be stored that your spouse is unaware of. This will keep the information secure and still make it convenient for you to be able to rely upon it in the future when you need to verify a password.
Any online account or resource that you utilize should have an updated password set periodically. This is good advice even if you are not going through marital problems. Online scammers are plentiful and keeping your passwords for too long on a website is an easy way for this camera to take advantage of lapses in your digital security. Not using birthdays, address numbers, or other similar information is a great way for you to never have a password that can be guessed easily.
Another tip as far as your online behavior is concerned would be to never discuss marital problems and other difficulties online or via text message. While you are undoubtedly going through hard times in your marriage there is no real benefit to complaining about your spouse on the Internet. Rather, the better move would be for you 2 engage in therapy whether professional or to talk with close friends or family about the situation. At this point, the last thing you would want to be able to do is to give your spouse ammunition to use against you in the context of a divorce. Also, you need to begin practicing using good online etiquette if you do go through with the divorce. Many people have suffered consequences because they have spoken negatively about a judge or other person of authority during their family law case.
These are just some preliminary thoughts about e-mail messaging and other similar subjects that may become a part of your divorce. If you have specific questions about situations that have developed in your life, I recommend that you contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to discuss these issues further with an experienced family law attorney.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.